Throughout his long and prolific career, Professor Haim Zafrani has largely published in French, depriving the English reader of his vast scholarship on the languages, thought, literature, and culture of the Jews of Morocco. He begins this English- language compendium on Moroccan Jewish life and culture by recounting sympathetically the mythological origins of Moroccan Jewry — namely, that Jews first came to Morocco with King David’s general in pursuit of the Philistines and that later, local Berber tribes converted to Judaism. Moving to a discussion of the parameters of Jewish life as dhimmis or non-Muslim “people of the book,” who in exchange for their subordination to Muslim domination are protected, Zafrani focuses most of the book on the pre-modern period, illustrating how Moroccan Jewry amalgamated Sephardi and indigenous cultures to create a unique Jewish society. The book provides important coverage of rabbinic thought and intellectual life, Moroccan life-cycle customs and traditions, education for boys and girls, and a discussion of communal structure and leadership. Inclusion of such topics as the etymology of names depicting occupations, origin and location, along with illustrative travel accounts and samples of Judeo-Muslim poetry adds fascinating nuances to this snapshot of a society that no longer exists, its descendants found only partly today in Casablanca but also in France, Israel and Canada.
Two Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Morocco
Reeva Spector Simon is Professor of History at Yeshiva University. She is co-editor and contributor to The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times (Columbia University Press, 2003).
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